La ministre Sindisiwe Chikunga

South Africa: a minister robbed, her bodyguards stripped of their weapons

South Africa’s transport minister has told how she was held up at gunpoint after her vehicle stopped on a highway to change a burst tire.

A South African minister was robbed and her bodyguards had their weapons stolen, police say, in what the country’s authorities called an “unprecedented incident.” The attack took place on Monday while Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga was driving on a highway south of Johannesburg, police said.

“The tires of the minister’s car were punctured by spikes, which immobilized the car and allowed the criminals to steal the occupants’ valuables”said the transport ministry. “They opened my door (…), pointed a gun at my head and ordered me to get out,” she said, describing an experience “traumatic and devastating”. The minister and her guards emerged from the ordeal “unharmed,” the ministry added.

A police spokesperson, Athlenda Mathe, said the thieves fled with personal belongings and two South African Police Service (SAPS) pistols. A manhunt has been launched following this unprecedented incident and to bring those responsible to justice,” said Athlenda Mathe.

South Africa has long had a reputation for violent crime and is often described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world outside of war zones. According to official statistics, police recorded more than 500 robberies and nearly 70 murders per day in the country of 62 million people between April and June this year. Authorities have been accused of failing to provide security and justice for crime victims.